There are some things about business journalism that nauseate me, especially certain stories that editors deem have to be written on an annual basis. Writing about Super Bowl advertising from a business perspective is one of those stories, and yes, I have had to write it before.
These stories seem like free advertising for the companies. I would bet that many companies buy Super Bowl advertising becuase of the media coverage that they know they will get in addition to the exposure to the 100 million viewers who will watch the game and not go to the bathroom during the commercial breaks.
What don’t I like about these stories? Let me count the ways:
1. They’re overall too positive and fawning about the companies. Rarely have I seen a reporter critically assess what a company is getting out of paying millions for a Super Bowl ad.
2. They’re rarely done in context. If a company is buying a Super Bowl ad, why? Does the demographic of their customers fit the average Super Bowl watcher? If not, why are they running the ad?
3. When was the last time you saw a Super Bowl ad story about a company where the reporter took the time to call up the company’s biggest competitor and ask them why they weren’t running an ad during the game as well? It’s interesting to get two different perspectives, I think. Let’s not just accept what the Super Bowl ad company is telling us as the gospel.
4. Unless the company is willing to share its analysis of what it expects to get in return, like the dollar amount of the exposure or the bump in sales, what does it matter if they’re advertising on the Super Bowl or on Survivor? Our business readers should expect more from us.
I realize that the Super Bowl is a big media spectacle, and that the adverting is part of that. I can even tell you my favorite Super Bowl ads of all time (Apple’s George Orwell “1984” ad from the early 1980s). But I think that many Super Bowl ad stories are just another example of the business journalism profession not using its skills to properly address this story in its right context. And that’s what got us in trouble covering the Internet industry in the 1990s.
My soap box rant for the week.